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Saturday, December 16, 2006

City Proposes a Cut in Counseling Benefits for City Employees

On the December 5, 2006 City Council agenda there was a consent item that would authorize "the adoption of Cigna Behavioral Health as the vendor for the City of Davis Employee Assistance Program (EAP)" on January 1, 2007. City staff supported this plan because it would realize as they state in their report "significant fiscal savings" in the amount of $24,000 per year.

This is a very complicated issue as it deals with a number of technical aspects. Keep in mind that this item was placed on the consent calendar agenda. The consent calendar agenda is the place where non-controversial items are placed together as a single-item to facilitate their passage without discussion.

Upon being alerted that a councilmember intended to pull the item for discussion at the December 5 meeting, City Manager Bill Emlen announced that this item was being pulled by staff and would be brought back the next week--ostensibly in order to prepare for a discussion. But again staff placed the item on the December 12 consent calendar agenda for approval without discussion. At the meeting Councilmember Lamar Heystek pulled the item for a full discussion by the city council. There was then a lengthy discussion and again it was decided by the council to hold the issue over for even more discussion until the city council meeting on January 16, 2007. This should call into question the placement of this item on the consent agenda.

As we actually look into this issue, the purported "significant fiscal savings" appears to come at the cost of a great loss in service provided to the employees. There are currently 51 employees receiving this service from the City of Davis. Because these are people receiving counseling and psychological services, they are unlikely to come forward and complain about the change in their benefits plan. This appears to be yet another example of the city being able to cut benefits to a group that is likely to not attempt to fight back.

The key issue here is that Cigna’s quoted price of approximately $14,500 per year premium requires them to severely cutback on the amount of people who use the service in order for them to make a profit. As we will see shortly, they do this by creating a tremendously complicated referral system that appears to be specifically designed to discourage people from filing for coverage.

Cigna quoted approximately $14,500 per year premium for their EAP. Psychological Resource Associates (PRA) the existing provider, on the other hand, quoted a higher premium at approximately $38,500 per year based on the prior year’s usage. The difference or "savings" is $24,000. City human resources staff said they wanted to change paying the provider from a per incident premium (determined by employee usage) to a set premium regardless of usage. They did this primarily because last year, the service ran well over budget. Instead of adjusting the budget to reflect realistic employee usage of this benefit, city human resources staff determined they wanted to hold costs down to a predetermined amount all the while marketing their efforts as providing equal service or even more service for less money with another vendor.

As reported by Dr. Dean Dickerson (PRA principal) in his letter to Sharon Neilson (city staff human resources analyst) he pays his psychologists with a master's degree $70 per hour and Cigna pays theirs $62 per hour. He pays his psychologists with a PhD. $90 and Cigna pays theirs $70. The bulk of counseling services provided is with psychologists with master's degrees.

Let us compare the two proposals: Last year the EAP program helped 51 employees. Using only the lower pay scale for psychologists with a master's degree for cost analysis, if those 51 employees saw a counselor for the 8 counseling sessions per person which the EAP plan allows that is 408 hours of service.

  • PRA costs are then 408 times $70 = $28,540
  • Cigna costs are then 408 times $62 = $25,296

Since no company including Cigna is in the business of losing money how can they afford to make a bid of $14,500 for EAP services all the while saying they are providing even more services to the city's employees in their proposal than PRA is currently providing? Dr. Dickerson reports that historically between 9 and 13 percent of the city's employees have used the EAP program provided by PRA verses the national average of big insurance companies’ usage which is much lower--between 2 and 3 percent. Thus you can clearly see that national insurance companies structure their programs in a way that reduces the usage of the service offered. They make it more difficult to access the service and they reduce the quality of the service provided.

So those are the numbers, but how does Cigna get to those drastically lower numbers of service?

Cigna offers lower-quality services from a corporate headquarters that is staffed by less-qualified employees (think about the service you get when you call an "800" number for assistance). Employees seeking service will have to talk to out-of-state (out-of-country?) strangers at the other end of an "800" number in order to have their most private of needs dealt with.

PRA has provided the City of Davis with EAP services since 1984, and it is also the EAP provider for Yolo County employees, Davis Joint Unified School District employees, Yolo Office of Education employees, and Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District employees.

Cigna on the other hand, lacks the specialization and quality of service that PRA has in providing EAP services. Cigna does not provide the personal service that employees have come to rely on, rather their program is more of a tool to assist management and human resource personnel in dealing with issues such as employer-employee relationships, emergency crisis management, work related issues and other short-term types of services that EAP covers. (From the staff report: “Employee Assistance Programs, by design, offer short term counseling and guidance and are not intended as a replacement for more intensive counseling needs, which are covered by other long term health care options available to employees.”)

Moreover, while PRA offers services from 11 therapists in Davis and Woodland and over 50 overall in the Sacramento area, Cigna only has 5 therapists in Davis and the Woodland area. PRA requires all of its therapists to prioritize EAP requests thereby guaranteeing immediate assistance 24/7, 365 days of the year. By calling PRA they assist the employee in finding a therapist immediately. That is PRA's responsibility, not the employee's. But with Cigna that burden falls on the employee. Cigna only offers referral direction to lists of providers but does not guarantee that their providers will take the referral. It is up to the individual Cigna therapist to determine whether they have the time to see the employee leaving the employee in the position to call one provider after another from a much more restricted list. In other words, we are talking about a Cigna EAP system in which the employee who is in crisis is faced with a cumbersome task of trying to access help. With Cigna, there will be fewer therapists (who already have their own clientele) being asked to provide additional services for on the average 50 plus employees per year.

Cigna's referral process seems overly intrusive to the employee and burdensome on both the employee and employer.

The following directions to the employer or supervisor is from Cigna's management training website:

You may call at any point regarding a difficult or troubled employee or team, and speak to one of our employee assistance consultants. They will ask key questions, advise you how to proceed, and even role play situations with you when warranted. Consultation may result in a recommendation of a formal referral to the EAP, a training seminar delivered by the EAP, or any number of other options.

Furthermore these are the Cigna procedures for a formal referral for the employer or supervisor:

  • First, consult your HR Dept. about your company's policies
  • Call EAP before meeting with the employee, and give us employee's name and details
  • We will fax you a Release of Information form for employee to sign
  • Have a meeting with the employee to discuss the issues
  • Give employee the EAP number and have them call for appointment
  • After assessment is complete we will inform you of recommendations and employee's compliance

There are a number of very troubling aspects of this endeavor, beginning with the procedural matter of attempting to push this item through as a consent item without discussion. Fortunately, once again, Councilmember Heystek was vigilant on the issue of employee benefits and had the item pulled for discussion last week. Mayor Sue Greenwald then suggested as a courtesy to Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson (who had been out of the country for several weeks) that the item be held over until the next city council meeting on January 16, 2007 so she could study the matter.

Second, the city is gaining a questionable “saving” of $24,000 per year as that “savings” apparently comes at considerable cost in the form of less service to the employees. The city manager and his human resources staff are recommending that the city end working with a local provider that has served city employees for 22 years. They are removing the city from a provider that works with other municipalities and government agencies in this area. And they are giving a contract to a large and faceless national corporation that undervalues Employee Assistance Programs and makes it difficult to access them. Those facts alone should necessitate a strong and compelling reason to take such an item off of the consent calendar to have it discussed. Again, a questionable “savings” of $24,000 and city staff’s assertion that they are increasing benefits does not seem a sufficient explanation for such a move, when it is, in fact, a reduction in benefits.

Once again, the City of Davis seems “penny-wise but pound-foolish.” Let us ask ourselves if there is an express need to make this change other than a marginal savings of money. Do the employees feel that they are not getting good services with this current provider? City staff acknowledges that PRA provides excellent service and there have been no complaints. If not, $24,000 does not seem to be sufficient "savings" to reduce the benefits to hardworking city employees.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting


In the debate over the General Plan last Tuesday night at the Davis City Council meeting, as we reported on Wednesday, there was a complaint by Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson who, somewhat inexplicably, became very upset over use of the term "surrogate" by Councilmember Lamar Heystek to describe the membership of a proposed steering committee for the drafting of an update to the general plan.
"You know that's an insult to the community to call any community member that will be part of this committee, a surrogate."
The definition of surrogate is: "a person appointed to represent or act on behalf of others."

Is that not what they are asking this body, the steering committee, to do--represent and act on the behalf of others?
"I don't want to call them my surrogate, I will appoint people I think who should be in that steering committee. But they have to put their independent thinking..."
Asmundson is clearly taking the use of the word surrogate in a negative context here. But let's be honest. The Mayor Pro Tem is going to select her appointees from like-minded individuals. She is not going to select me (or people who share my vision of Davis) as one her representatives. That is certainly to be expected and well within her rights. In the end, the members of this steering committee will reflect the breakdown of the council as a whole. There will be nine appointed by the majority faction and six by the minority faction.

I see no reason to get upset about the use of the term surrogate to describe the situation. It is a very accurate description in the opinion of this blogger.

While the implication that these people might be mindless automatons and robots appears unsettling, the bottom line is that Asmundson is going to appoint three members who share her vision of Davis. Heystek is going to do likewise. We need to be open and honest about what this type of process is going to produce. If you like that format, then by all means approve it. But let’s at least be able to have that discussion. Objecting to a word like surrogate serves to end that discussion and detract and distract from the issue at hand.

Objecting to a word, surrogate, is a strong overreaction by Asmundson, reminiscent of the day when the council voted to remove the HRC in June. Asmundson on that day, told us that her heart was racing and that she was shaking due to the contentiousness of the situation. I think a veteran office-holder such as Asmundson, who is not only serving her second term on the City Council but also served as a school board member for nine years should be a bit more circumspect about the use of a word, surrogate.

View the video to see the content and context of this statement.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Afternoon Briefs

More on the County Supervisor's Pay Raise

Okay so Bob Dunning obviously decides he too must weigh in on the issue of the pay raise for County Supervisors.

Dunning bets us that if we polled 100 residents, 80 percent couldn't even tell you which county supervisor represents them and of the 20 percent who could, no one could name all five current supervisors.

That would be an interesting test. I know I'm not a random person on the street in Davis but I know my supervisor, Helen Thomson. And I can name all four of the other supervisors--I'll even name both Sieferman AND Rexroad, for good measure. I've personally met all of them except for Duane Chamberlain. So I think it’s fair to assume that a random sample would find at least one person who could name all five.

I will concede the fact that most in Davis probably cannot name their own supervisor. However, I hardly believe that that should be the test for how much they should be paid.

Most polls of the American electorate have shown that slightly less than 50% of Americans can identify their own representative in the House of Representatives. On the other hand, 89 percent of Americans can correctly identify who Bart Simpson is. Using Dunning's logic, we can guess at how he might respond here.

So does the fact that few in Davis can name their own county supervisor mean that County Supervisors do not deserve a pay raise? Or is this just another red herring disguised to distract us from more meaningful issues.

Despairingly Dunning writes that "apparently the money [current salary of $49,730] isn't sufficient to live a proper Yolo County lifestyle..."

I find it distasteful when a guy like Dunning who is pulling in decent bucks is making comments like this about people who are not wealthy and are true public servants. They certainly are neither making nor asking for outrageous salaries.

Getting Small Results from Public Servants

Upon hearing that Supervisor Thomson had read from the Davis Vanguard at the recent County Board of Supervisors Meeting, I thought it would be a good idea to try to get a hold of a copy of the meeting or at least find out when the shows aired.

So I checked the website--no mention.

I called them up, and I spoke to a very nice lady in the Supervisor’s Clerk's office, and they did not have the current information.

I called up the WAVE and got no answer there.

Finally, in frustration I emailed Supervisor Mariko Yamada. Within a day, the Public Officer had added the vital information to their webpage:

There you go; constituent service at its finest.

City Manager Bill Emlen Acknowledges Problem with Police In-Car Recording System

Last week, the People's Vanguard of Davis reported that the police in-car digital recording system was not working properly.

The city had not come forward with this information despite knowing about it for apparently quite some time.

Finally, at the last city council meeting this past Tuesday, Councilmember Lamar Heystek asked Bill Emlen for an update on this problem after the problem was raised during public comments.

Emlen acknowledged that there was a problem and that they were trying to fix the problem. Lt. Darrin Pytel was working on it as well.

Councilmembers Heystek and Souza both requested that this information be agendized at a future meeting.

It remains of concern the lengths that have to be taken to get the city to acknowledge such problems. It is unclear whether the members of the City Council were aware of the problem prior to this meeting. Anytime there is a significant expenditure of public money, it is incumbent upon the city staff to update the City Council who are the elected representatives of the public, particularly when significant and expensive problems arise.

This brings up the question--what other problems are there with technology and other expenditures that we do not know about?

Please view the brief video of from the council meeting.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Second Family to File Suit Against School District

A second student has stepped forward and is alleging that he was harassed while at Harper Junior High School in Davis. The family is protecting their name in order to shield the student from the type of scrutiny that has befallen the Fischer family.

In a statement released by Attorney Bruce Nickerson who is also representing the Fischers:
"It's a case of anti-gay harassment. It's not based on parental orientation, but on the young man's perceived orientation."
The student is reportedly small and therefore perceived to be gay.

One of the students involved in the harassment of Zachary Fischer was involved in this incident. In fact, he was the student who harassed Fischer in the first incident and then upon Fischer's return to school which prompted the father to finally pull him out of school.

I find two other disturbing aspects about this incident.

The school district was informed about this incident after the eighth-grader was attacked by four students who threw him to the ground and robbed him of personal items. They beat him up badly enough that paramedics were called and medical attention was required.

The district supposedly then conducted an investigation but found no witnesses to the event. One must question how hard the district investigated because it turns out Zach Fischer witnessed the event and saw most of the incident. Yet he was never contacted by the district during the course of their investigation.

The family wants to protect their identity and the identity of their son. Information is difficult to obtain about this incident; however, the alarming aspect once again is not just that the incident itself occurred, which is alarming in itself, but the pattern that is emerging with the district not properly handling the incident in terms of their investigation and ability to prevent future incidents. The community needs to look long and hard about how they want government officials to respond to attacks that put students in need of medical attention. It seems to me that the system is currently failing to adequately protect our students.

The other day we mentioned a member of the public who wrote a letter to the Davis Enterprise complaining that the Fischer's $100,000 lawsuit would hurt other kids by taking away resources that would otherwise go to the classroom. I think if anything it will help other kids if it forces the school district to protect their safety.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thursday Afternoon Briefs

Board of Supervisors pay raise issue draws a lot of heat

The board of supervisors on Tuesday voted to table the motion. Dudley Holman of the Yolo County Taxpayer's Association accused the board of being arrogant and devisive.
Mariko Yamada, perhaps the board's most vocal proponent of the pay raise, took particular issue with Holman's criticisms.

"To call me arrogant is the height of reverse arrogance," she said, adding the amount of hours she spends working to serve the county is sometimes double what most people work in a day. (source: Josh Fernandez, Woodland Daily Democrat)
Anyone who knows Yamada with any degree of familiarity knows two things. She is the last person in the world that you would call arrogant. If anything, as I have said before, she is too modest. Second, she along with Councilmember Heystek are the hardest working people I know. Yamada defintely works at least an 80 hour week.

The Board of Supervisors is in a difficult position of voting upon their own payraise, something that Supervisor Thomson acknowledged, however, it remains our opinion that this is a much needed pay raise. Hopefully this issue can be revisited and cooler heads will prevail.

Dunning attack on Heystek draws more heat

In a letter to the editor of Davis Enterprise, Bill Ritter writes:

Commendation, not ridicule

In Bob Dunning's Nov. 28 column, he quoted Noreen Mazelis and together they ridiculed Lamar Heystek for being on an International House invited panel on "struggle" — a discussion about overcoming adversity. Mazelis attacked the panel's makeup as privileged men. Both she and Dunning trivialized Lamar's efforts to improve his life as not being a credible struggle.

Dunning wrote: "Writes my friend Noreen: '… Lamar Heystek will be on a panel with three other privileged men to discuss 'struggle.' " Dunning then adds: "... wow, nobody knows the trouble he's seen, overcoming his college education and teaching position at UC Davis to become one of the youngest City Council members in Davis city history ... struggle? ... Lamar? ... heck, he's not old enough to have even struggled with a razor ..."

Dunning intentionally put Mazelis' quote in his column. He did not dispute, and indeed highlighted her assertion that Lamar is privileged. He then added his own sarcastic put-down of Lamar's efforts to be successful, become a credit to his family and serve his community. Dunning and Mazelis (through ignorance and carelessness) show a lack of respect for the obstacles Lamar faced as a young man and his efforts to make his way in the world.

Lamar does not come from a privileged background. He has overcome much hardship through genuine struggle in his life. Lamar grew up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Oakland where violent crime was frequent. His family life is filled with adversity and tragedy. For Dunning and Mazelis to make belittling comments about Lamar's life (which evidently they know little or nothing about) was appalling, careless and just plain mean.

It is one thing to criticize Lamar if you disagree with his politics, positions on issues or public conduct, but quite another to ridicule him personally, as Dunning has, and belittle or ignore the life challenges he has faced.

Lamar has overcome them by getting an education while working full time, qualifying for university employment, volunteering to help others, and earning election to the City Council. Such strong effort to overcome adversity should be commended, not ridiculed.

Bill Ritter


Well said Mr. Ritter, I certainly cannot add anything to his eloquent letter. To date, Dunning has not responded to our concerns and request for an apology on this issue. It will be interesting to see if Dunning will respond to Mr. Ritter.

"Making everyone heard"

Some may have caught the piece in the Davis Enterprise the other night by Claire St. John, a feature article on Alexandra Courtis, the high school student who serves as the high school representative on the Davis Human Relations Commission.

The story was fairly routine, but I did notice a little insertion:
"Shortly after she was appointed as alternate, however, the City Council put the commission on hiatus, saying the commission was making problems of alleged racial profiling by police more inflammatory rather than elevating the conversation... Courtis made sure to emphasize she was not speaking as a representative of the Human Relations Commission, something that got previous members in trouble with the City Council."
I suppose it will be a long time before there can be a newspaper article relating to the Human Relations Commission without some reference to things past.

Community Event Announcement: 911 and American Empire

Tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Davis Branch of the Yolo County Library, 315 E. 14th Street, called "911 and the American Empire". Discussion will follow.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Souza and Asmundson Mislead on Seniors' Issue

When Elaine Roberts Musser, chair of the Senior Citzens Commission, came up before Council on Tuesday night, she delivered harsh and very pointed criticism in the direction of Councilmember Stephen Souza and Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson. Souza and Asmundson seemed very defensive in their reactions to these accusations yielded by Musser. And while they denied some of the charges and apologized for any misunderstanding, the fact remains that the accusations by Musser are accurate and frankly there was no misunderstanding—their intentions from the very beginning were very clear. A review of the public record reveals not only that Musser is correct, but that Souza and Asmundson have done a very hasty retreat on this issue since they brought it first before Council on September 12, 2006.

At City Council meeting in October 2006, Souza made the claim that he would later repeat in newspaper interviews that in fact all he and Asmundson wanted to do was "generate conversation." They were not necessarily recommending merger, but they wanted to consider it. After reviewing the public record, this claim seems dubious at best.

When the Council met on September 12, 2006, city staff, under the direction of the city council subcommittee of Asmundson and Souza, had placed on the agenda a number of recommendations on changes to be made regarding various city commissions—many of these were minor and had to do with changes in authorizing documents and size of membership.

One of the major changes was the recommendation to merge two commissions: Senior Citizens Commission with the Social Services Commission.

According to agenda item 9, "Recommendations of the staff liaisons that are recommended by the subcommittee have been incorporated in the proposed

The Senior Citizens Commission and Social Service Commission recommendation reads:

"There is a significant amount of overlap and to combine the two commissions would be beneficial to the members and the City Council. It is suggested that the name of the commission be Social Services and Senior Commission. The functions of the two commissions were reworded and combined into one set of functions and no functions of either commission removed."

Souza and Asmundson did not raise this issue to generate conversation. They proposed that the two commissions be merged at a public city council meeting before receiving any feedback from the two commissions affected by this proposal. They had placed on the September 12, 2006 council agenda both a full recommendation and a full resolution merging the two commissions. This was an action item and there is no doubt they wanted to take action to merge the two commissions that evening as they pressed their colleagues to do so.

Had they wanted to generate discussion, they would have broached the topic at the respective commission meetings first and gauged the support of the membership rather than bringing up a full resolution for a vote at the city council meeting. Only after questions were raised by Councilmember Lamar Heystek and Mayor Sue Greenwald as well as from members of the public did they then go to the respective commissions for comment.

What happened here is that Souza and Asmundson made several critical errors in this process. They went forward with a full resolution and recommendation for merger without adequately soliciting the opinions of the involved commissions or the groups and citizens the commissions serve.

Upon resistance from the Senior Citizen's Commission they backtracked both in rhetoric and in policy, before finally at the most recent meeting on Tuesday, December 12 they were forced to abandon the idea after first proposing a two-year delay in consideration.

The most striking part of this entire experience is the blatant dishonesty by the Councilmember Souza and Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson about their original intentions which were quite clear. They made serious errors about how they chose to approach this issue. It would have been a responsible thing to do to take a step back in September when these errors became apparent and put this process on a different trajectory. Instead, they tried to finesse around their mistakes and then deceive the public about their true intentions.

Please review our numerous articles on this issue and watch the comments first by Elaine Roberts Musser and then Souza's defensive response.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Late Night Parliamentary Games on the Park Consultant Issue

Two weeks ago we reported that the Davis City Council had voted to take no action on a proposal that would authorize city staff to solicit bids for the purpose of hiring a consultant who would then work to create a survey that gathers community feedback about future needs in order to update the city's parks. We had opposed such a move as an expensive and unnecessary action.

We reported that Councilmember Don Saylor had joined Greenwald and Heystek in the vote to take no action.
"But Saylor had one more trick up his sleeve and with a shocking move he joined Heystek and Greenwald in support of that motion. Why would he do that? Parliamentary procedure states that in order to reconsider an item, a person who voted with the prevailing side is the only one who can bring it up for discussion again. Saylor could not bring the item back had he voted against taking no action."
The item was now brought back for reconsideration by Saylor at the last meeting. A discussion ensued late on Tuesday evening’s meeting.

There were several very striking features about this discussion.

First, Mayor Sue Greenwald suggests, "you voted presumably in order that you could bring it back." Saylor dodges this accurate assessment. It is perfectly within the rules of parliamentary procedure to strategically vote with the majority in order to have the right to ask for reconsideration. However, Saylor never acknowledges this very evident fact when pressed on the matter.

Second, Souza claims:
"This an RFP, it is a request for proposals, it's not an adoption of a proposal, it's not the acceptance of a proposal, it was just a request for proposals. So if we consider this, all we're considering is putting out a request for proposals. I see no harm in putting out a request for proposals. We then would then if we had a proposal come back to us, we would then have to accept the proposal or reject the proposal."
Now Souza's claim here is accurate, they would ultimately, as City Manager Bill Emlen noted, accept the amount once bids are received. However, it is misleading to suggest that all this is an approval of requests for proposals. The way this would then work is if the bid comes in under the amount allocated, it would then come back as a consent agenda item. This means that while a councilmember could ask for it to be pulled, the heavy lifting and debate of the proposal comes at this stage rather than at the acceptance of a bid proposal stage. And in essence, approval of the "request for proposals" will amount to an approval of a consultant assuming that they find a suitable bidder.

This is a procedural argumentary tactic designed to diffuse the heavy debate. There is no reason to avoid the debate at the stage of RFP as opposed to acceptance of the bid. Have the debate and then vote. But let’s not make the argument that we should accept this item merely as a means to see what proposals the city receives. That seems disingenuous. You authorize a request for proposal if you believe that we should do the project. And if you do not, as both Greenwald and Heystek have stated, there is no reason to approve the RFP.

Third, councilmember Heystek makes a good point that the vote for reconsideration should be based on new information rather than the presence of a councilmember who was absent at the previous meeting. This is not a parliamentary point. Parliamentary procedure allows anyone voting on the winning side of an issue to bring it back for reconsideration.

Saylor, however, gets very testy on this:
"Let me respond. I'll be very specific. Earlier this evening we talked about an item that had to do with Employee Assistant Program, one of the councilmembers asked that that item as a courtesy be held over and we agreed with that. I voted to hold that over as a courtesy to a colleague. Two meetings ago we had an item that we were stalemated on, two of us believed that we should proceed, two believed that we should not. I asked that we hold that item over until December 12 so that we would have a full council so that we could consider it. That motion was defeated. Then the motion that we were voting on was, should we take action on that item, and the motion was we should not take action on that item that night. And I think that was the motion... And having voted on that motion in the affirmative I now have the right to request reconsideration by the full council. That's what I'm doing."
As Greenwald points out, the issue is not whether or not he should have the right to reconsideration. He does. But she is absolutely correct that before Ruth went on her trip, they granted her a very large courtesy of holding over issues that she had the greatest interest in hearing. Mayor Greenwald and the council granted extreme deference to Asmundson on the issues that she is most interested in considering. The last two meetings in fact were very light, because they chose to keep items that were of interest to Asmundson off of the agenda.

Asmundson did not request the parks consultant item to be held over until she was back in town. Therefore it seems very disingenuous (not procedurally incorrect) on the part of Saylor to then request a courtesy in this case as he granted on another issue.

The fact is that Asmundson received far more courtesy when she was gone than either Greenwald or Heystek would have if they were gone on a similar endeavor.

Saylor distorts the issue by suggesting that they were arguing that he did not have the right to request reconsideration. Rather they are suggesting that the council should not grant reconsideration based on the absence of a member. And this is a very important point because it essentially means that any controversial action taken during the absence of a councilmember faces the prospect of being reconsidered if that member's vote was pivotal to the outcome.

Moreover, it seems to me that Saylor's speech about courtesy is a one-way street in this case. They were granted a huge amount of courtesy in the way the agenda was constructed with the interests of Asmundson in mind. That courtesy was not extended back to Greenwald and Heystek on the one issue that proved controversial during Asmundson’s absence.

I have no problem whatsoever disagreeing with people on issues. We can debate the merits and if they win, they win. When elected members of the council start playing games and pretend to be doing something that they are not—that is when I have huge objections. Saylor should have be upfront that he had voted strategically to utilize the parliamentary rules--which he clearly had. It is not a big deal until he dodges the point.

Souza should be upfront and acknowledge that a vote for the RFP is in fact tantamount to approval of the concept of the project. If you are opposed to the project, you should not vote to approve the RFP.

And finally, they should all recognize the extreme deference granted to Mayor Pro Tem Asmundson that they have failed to reciprocate on.

For those who missed it, here is video of that entire debate, it is very revealing and well worth watching.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The People's Vanguard of Davis Gets Mentioned at the Board of Supervisors Meeting

Matt Rexroad informed me yesterday that The People's Vanguard of Davis was quoted by Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson during the debate on supervisor's salary increase. Last week, I wrote a blog that defended a pay increase for the County Supervisors.

Rexroad writes about The People's Vanguard of Davis in his blog: Rexroad Blog

Rexroad writes: "The folks at The People's Vanguard of Davis (although I disagree with them often) make some good points. They are an alternate media source that I look at most every day."

In many ways, Rexroad and I are very much on opposite sides of the fence politically. There will be times during the course of his tenure, when he will hate me with a passion and curse the ground I walk on. Or at least I hope. But I think he brings up an issue that I think we both agree on wholeheartedly. The need for alternative media. The express need to be able to give people access to information that they cannot get at conventional sources.

I founded this blog several months ago because of the frustration that I felt stemming from the June Primary election in Davis and the disbanding of the Human Relations Commission. I founded it because I felt like we, the progressive left of Davis, did not have a voice. Between the Davis Enterprise as a guardian and gatekeeper of information and Bob Dunning who slammed the progressives every chance he got, I felt like there was no way to get the message out to the public.

The second part of this blog that I think is equally important is that it is interactive. If you disagree with Dunning or disagree with the Enterprise, you can write one letter to the editor that is limited to 350 words. If you disagree with me, you can log on and write to your heart's content. You can question where I got the information. You can correct me when I am wrong. I can correct you when I am not. We have a place where we might not always agree, but we can have dialogue. And we may at the end of the day, understand each other a little better or at least agree to disagree.

When I started this blog, I never imagined it would become so popular and be as effective as it has. Hopefully we can continue to make an impact on Davis and hopefully that impact will be positive.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

General Plan Update at City Council Last Night

Last night's Davis City Council meeting saw a number of issues that were raised that we will be discussing over the course of the next few days.

I begin with a procedural fight over what will likely be one of the most contentious issues facing Davis over the course of the next 18 months--the update of the general plan.

Last night the key point in question was what body should be drafting the update to the General Plan. Staff came forward last night with a format that gives the appearance of citizen participation in the form of a steering committee. I say appearance because the council itself will appoint these members and they are likely to reflect a rather narrow cross-section of Davis residents

Mayor Greenwald and Councilmember Heystek opposed this option preferring that the council work to draft the new general plan themselves. The stated reason was that both members felt like this should be the primary responsibility of the elected council members rather than point "surrogates."

Now the term surrogate drew a surprisingly angry response from Asmundson, who somehow found that term offensive. She considered it an insult to the people who would serve this role. (In the future, this will be fodder for a video clip, but in the meantime, a brief discussion is in order.)

I looked up the definition to the word surrogate and found it rather innocuous according to The first definition is: "a person appointed to represent or act on behalf of others." Hello? Is that not what they are doing?

Heystek clearly objected to the process, but it was far from clear that he of all people had any intention of being insulting to citizens who would participate in this process. Asmundson's claim was completely without merit and her response was extremely disproportionate to the so-called offense.

The concern that Greenwald and Heystek have is that each member will draw from a very narrow group of people and that the division lines on the council will be reflected in who the councilmembers nominate to that committee. That part is obvious. The less obvious part is whether a group of 15 appointed by the commission and their likely 9-6 vote would have any greater weight than a 3-2 vote by the council itself.

I think there is a clear concern that this would give the council majority political cover to take whatever actions a body of 15 citizens recommend.

I also think that Heystek has a valid concern echoed in the comments by Eileen Samitz last night that this is the same council majority whose proposed project at Covell Village was overwhelmingly defeated, whose project at Second Street Crossing was narrowly passed, and whose own members were narrowly elected.

Why is that relevant? Because a likely 9-6 breakdown of the members of a steering committee would likely not reflect the sentiment and values of the community at-large.

That said, to be fully honest, I am not sure that any process is going to be completely fair short of competing visions going up for a vote. It is very obvious that the council majority will do what they want to do regardless of how the process is set up (and that’s not necessarily a criticism of them, that’s in fact their right as council majority). The only thing we can hope for is a fair and open proceedings that are recorded and can be shown in the light of day.

As such, projects such as this blog may be the best protection we have. The public needs to be informed and put pressure on the council to adhere to our vision of growth.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tuesday Midday Briefs

Council continues backtracking on Senior Citizens Commission merge

It has been fascinating to watch the hasty retreat by Souza and Asmundson on the merging of the Social Services Commission with the Senior Citizens commissions. The plan was first introduced in mid-September. However, the Senior Citizens forcefully rejected idea of the merger.

Now staff is recommending that they delay a final decision for two years. Sue Greenwald is rightly suggesting that it be killed all together. But realistically, it is best to just fight other battles. In two years, if the council majority remains with Souza and Saylor, it probably would be brought back anyway. And if the Progressives take control, the proposal will die whether it is delayed or not. So we might as well move on. The Senior Citizens have won this battle.

Dixon Downs will likely go to the ballot

The Davis Enterprise reports today that the racetrack may have enough signatures to send the decision to the voters. The group has collected over double what they need to get the measures on the ballot. The measure would go to a special election in April if approved.

Meanwhile both the city of Davis and Campbell’s Soup Company have sued over traffic concerns.

Letter to the editor on the Junior High Incident

Hey, "Letters to the Editor" are always fair game. Especially if you write on one of my hot topics.

Kayla Birt writes the Davis Enterprise today:
"If the district were to lose $100,000, every student in the Davis School District would be affected."
I agree. All the more reason to put pressure on the school district to do their job and take care of these problems. This has been a consistent problem with the school district over the years. They are slow to respond. If it takes a $100,000 hit to the school district to wake up the community to what they are doing, then it's well worth it.
"But suing the district does absolutely nothing to solve the problem and harms about 7,000 innocent students along the way."
I disagree, first of all, money was only a very small part of the suit and most of the suit involves simply involves putting policies into place that will help the district stop this from happening in the future and at the same time help Zachary Fischer to go back to school.

Second, as I recall, some of the students are not innocent, so maybe the number should be 6,980.

Third, at $14 per student, perhaps this can prevent someone from going through this, then that's a small but worthwhile cost.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

School's Out for Valley Oak Students?

I always encourage people to send me new ideas for stories, and I'm very thankful for this one. Frankly I have not paid much attention to the proposed closure of Valley Oak School. I assumed it was merely an issue of facilities rather than something much larger. However, the more I have read about it, the more concerned I get.

The most concerning aspect of this for me is that the school district is just opening a new elementary school, Korematsu. Korematsu had not even opened yet, when in June, a special task force recommended the closure of Valley Oak due to declining enrollment.

Right there, a red flag goes up for me. Because now you are opening a new school in the wealthy Mace Ranch neighborhood, while you are closing an old school in the part of Davis that is the most racially diverse and economically disadvantaged. Some have suggested that Valley Oak was the target because its population is the least organized and politically powerless. Let us examine that question.

The June 27, 2006 Davis Enterprise cites task force member Jan Bridge, a former school board trustee, who suggests that given declining enrollment there are inherent problems with opening the new Korematsu Elementary campus in Mace Ranch, while operating the eight existing elementary schools. So if that’s the case, why are you opening a new school?
School Board Member Gina Daleiden: "The minute Korematsu opens, it starts to bleed students from Valley Oak. That's just a fact." Korematsu is in the newer, more affluent Mace Ranch area, while Valley Oak is in Old East Davis, surrounded by smaller homes and several apartment complexes. "I don't want to relegate our students with the fewest resources to a site with the fewest resources."
On the other hand, Daleiden ignores the drawbacks of closing the school. The students once the school is closed would be dispersed into three neighboring schools. This would put a large hardship on those families. Presently, with the neighborhood school open, the kids are able to walk or bicycle to school with ease. Many of these families do not have access to reliable transportation which put new burdens on the students and their parents.

Moreover, Valley Oak has been a major success story, with a very diverse student population that outperforms many of the neighboring schools that the students would be sent to.

Unfortunately, this appears to be a case where the wealthy parents and families in Mace Ranch, where Korematsu lies are getting a new school at the expense of the poorer students who go to Valley Oak.

I want to make this clear--I am not advocating the closing of Korematsu. I agree with those who suggest it is a bad idea to pit school against school. I urge the school district to come up with creative solutions in order to keep both schools open.

However, I also agree with Mr. Tezcan who wrote a letter to the editor last night pointing out in many ways this is as much about socio-economic issues and race relations as it is a debate about facilities. Unfortunately, I am forced to agree. Politics is about the distribution of scarce resources by government. Who wins in the political battle? Generally, those who have the most resource, influence, and are best organized. Unfortunately that appears to be Korematsu over Valley Oak.

The most perplexing part of this for me is the reason cited for why Valley Oak. Task force member Bridge, again in the June Davis Enterprise article, suggests that there are 420 kids on the school site. So what is the problem? There are 175 students who are in the GATE program at Valley Oak, many of those students come from outside of the school's attendance area. Reassigning the GATE program to another school and opening Korematsu would drop that figure to 225 according to task force chair Kirk Trost.

So let me get this straight, they are proposing closing a school that has a program that is so successful that kids from other parts of town attend?

Mr. Tezcan in a letter to me suggested that this might be a good issue for the Davis Human Relations Commission. I agree, too bad we do not have one anymore that can actually do something. I do not wish to continue beating a dead horse, (okay, yes I do), but already there are two issues that the Human Relations Commission should be dealing with, and both involve the school district.

A long time ago, in another town, I was heavily involved in school board issues. The commitment of parents to their neighborhood schools is tremendous. The advantages of smaller neighborhood schools over larger schools are many. I understand declining registration numbers. And I understand the need to best utilize our facilities in such a way that maximize our resources to create a strong learning environment. But part of doing that is giving people good safe neighborhood schools where their children can attend.

While closing down a school may (and I stress may) serve the needs of the school district, it certainly does not serve the needs of the students at Valley Oak Elementary School, students who appear to need as much help as possible in order to get a good and strong foundation for their future. Why would a school district pick on the weakest and most vulnerable segment of our population? That is beyond me.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, December 11, 2006

Referendum on Supervisor Pay Raise

I read on Matt Rexroad's blog that there is a referendum in the works sponsored by the Yolo County Taxpayer' Association to rescind the Supervisor’s pay increase. I assume what they would rescind is the formula change from 33% of Judge’s pay to 40%.

That is a shocking development precisely because little of this actually impacts the average taxpayer. We are talking about a roughly $7000 difference in pay per person in the new system versus the old system. For the five members of the County Supervisors that comes to roughly $35,000 per year total cost to the Yolo County taxpayer. Yolo County has roughly 185,000 people, so that works out to around 19 cents per person per year.

Yes, I know there are principles involved, but there is also a level of absurdity involved as well.

First, there is the election cost to the taxpayer. I will have to find out what this process will cost the taxpayers, but it would not surprise me if it amounted to close to one year's worth of the board's pay raise. So you cost the taxpayers more money in order to save them money.

But, the bigger folly is that let's say each of the individuals involved in the Yolo County Taxpayers' Association donates $100 in contribution for this measure passing. Well that's more than they would ever spend on the pay increase.

Oh yeah, did I mention it was the principle?

It would seem to me a lot better show of principle to simply at the next election run candidates who will rescind the pay increase. That way, the taxpayers of Yolo do not have pay for another ballot measure.

How's that for principle?

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Davis Enterprise Coverage of Buzayan Lawsuit

Sunday morning, December 10, 2006, I awoke to a front page story in the Davis Enterprise with the headline--"Buzayan family sues city, police."

My first thought was--well shoot, if I didn't read the Vanguard everyday, that might have been news to me. That might seem a little bit glib to some, and for that I apologize, but let me just say, that the People's Vanguard of Davis first wrote about the lawsuit going forward on November 20, 2006. We followed it up with an article on November 29, 2006 and finally an article on December 4, 2006. And we'll have another one later this week.

The Davis Enterprise reads the Vanguard and knew about this story over three weeks ago, if not shortly after the lawsuit was publicly filed on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2006 in Federal Court in the Eastern District of California. The Davis Enterprise is, after all, a defendant in the lawsuit. In contrast, when the Enterprise received *some* of the police tapes from the District Attorney's Office they ran a story on the front page within two days.

Moreover, much of this article focuses on a rehash of what had been public back in April and May. It focused heavily on the arrest itself. This is not to suggest that the arrest itself is not important; it is vital. However, the claims made by the Buzayans and their attorneys are very far-reaching. This blog has done three stories on the lawsuit already and we have barely scratched the surface of the depths of the complaint.

A few interesting points that surface in this article...

The basis of the racial discrimination charge: the “bloody” headscarf…

"[The lawsuit] alleges the defendants are guilty of racial discrimination, false imprisonment, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, abuse of process, slander, libel, defamation, battery and racial discrimination, among other conduct."

If you read that closely you will notice that the first and last charge listed by Davis Enterprise reporter Claire St. John is "racial discrimination." Very interesting that she mentions that twice.

I am about the last person in the world to be pointing out typos and oversights, but I find this very illustrative for substantive reasons. The lawsuit itself mentions 20 separate complaints and 19 causes of action. Only two of those even mention or contain the word "race."

One is the Sixth Cause of Action--"Violation of Civil Code § 51.7--Freedom from violence. The above-described conduct violated Plaintiff Halema Buzayan's right to be free from any violence or threat of violence or intimidation by threat of violence on the basis of race, color, ethnicity or religion as provided in Cal. Civ. Code § 51.7."

The other is the Second Cause of Action--Violation of 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and 42 U.S.C. §1983--Racial Discrimination."

In this case, the Buzayan Family alleges Halema Buzayan was intentionally singled out for false arrest based on her race, ethnicity, color and religious beliefs. Davis Police Officer Pheng Ly's sole basis for arrest is his observation that Ms. Buzayan wore no headscarf and her mother did.

Officer Ly states: "The interesting thing I noticed about the mom is she wore a something over her head and the daughter doesn't and the witnesses didn't mention anything about that. I think they would have mentioned that to me. So, it's probable the daughter was driving the car."

However, more than 90% of this case has no direct connection to Buzayan's race or ethnicity. And yet, while Officer Ly on his website vehemently defends himself against the charge of racism, the majority of the complaints against Ly have to do with violations of police procedure and the constitutional rights of Ms. Buzayan.

The importance of racial discrimination rests on one portion of the incident—Officer Ly's conclusion that Ms. Buzayan was the one driving based on his observations about a headscarf. I certainly would not accuse him of racism for coming to those conclusions, I would however, question whether he conducted a thorough enough investigation.

The audio tapes are revealing...

A second issue of importance has to do with the publication of *some* of the audio tapes on the Davis Enterprise website. The first point relating to this is that personal and confidential information (unlisted phone numbers & home addresses, driver’s license numbers, names & birth dates) of all the involved parties were included in the recordings (as well as the names and birth dates of the other Buzayan Family children.) The Davis Enterprise was notified of this by the victim of the accident who had received phone calls from members of the general public who had gotten her private information from the website. Once notified, the Enterprise removed the tapes, and then uploaded a redacted version a few days later.

The second point relating to this is that the District Attorney's Office released these tapes to the Davis Enterprise without authorization from Yolo County Judge Thomas Warriner who had specifically denied them permission to do so.

Whitney Leigh, attorney to the Buzayan Family, summarizes this point:

"I think the issue, from what I can tell, is The Davis Enterprise's publication of the information may have resulted simply by the failure to closely review the tapes, and the district attorney's wrongful disclosure of that to The Davis Enterprise... But the harm was already done once the information was released."

More questions than answers still...

There are many unanswered questions about the Buzayan case for the public. One of them, is why has this case created such controversy? It is a minor arrest of a teenager for allegedly pulling too close to another vehicle in a parking lot, hitting it, and leaving the scene. Misdemeanor hit and run cases are usually handled either civilly through restitution or by a small fine. Why are we still talking about it a year and a half after the incident?

My answer is because if you understand what went wrong in this case, from the moment that Halema Buzayan was arrested until the moment the Buzayan Family filed their lawsuit, you will understand what is wrong with the legal system in the City of Davis and Yolo County from the arresting officer, to the internal affairs department, to the police chief, to the district attorney's office, to the Davis Enterprise Newspaper, to the city manager and the city council itself.

Over the course of the next few months we will be exploring these issues in that context.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Effect of Target is Complex but Insidious

Honestly, I thought I was having déjà vu reading Dunning's column this morning. "Shopping habits, not Target, are what drives stores away." It was remarkably similar to last Sunday's column, "Davis' downtown won't change with a Target on its back."

Dunning makes the classic laissez faire argument:
"The true power in these struggles rests not with the mega-retailer but with those consumers on whom the mega-retailer depends for its very survival."
People will indeed vote with their feet. Unfortunately, Target has the capacity to force people to walk a lot further.

Now one problem I have with Dunning's argument is that like last week, he cites businesses that do not have overlap between Target's merchandise and their service and products.

He argues that he will continue to frequent various businesses that reside in the downtown. Now I understand that *he* probably will. The question though that is unanswered is will Target begin to eat away at the sales of stores that do have common merchandise. And if Target does drive those businesses away will places that Dunning does cite, like the downtown restaurants be harmed?

There are two types of customers. One type who comes to a given business for a specific reason. Bob gets hungry and wants Nepalese food and so he goes to Kathmandu. That type of business probably is not going to suffer.

But observe this type of business... I go down to Bogey's books to get some used books and I get hungry. There is Chipotle's right next door and the Pita place a couple of doors down. So I buy my books and then get my meal. That's incidental or walk-up business. I'm in the vicinity for other reasons but happen to get hungry and incidentally frequent an adjacent eating establishment.

But what happens when Bogey's closes? Now I am not in the vicinity, I get hungry and I go to my kitchen instead of a restaurant, since I have now order my used books at Amazon rather than Bogey's.

How much of business is intentional versus incidental? Has there been a study on this? If not, then Bob Dunning has no way of knowing whether these businesses will or will not be hurt. But in general, I think it is safe to speculate that more people at Target means less people downtown which means less opportunity for walk-up business. And this means while Bob may still go to his favorite restaurant, Doug may stay at home and eat his food from the fridge.
Dunning writes: "To survive, Target will have to offer something the downtown merchants don't, yet time and again I hear from my friends downtown that their stores are superior in every way to Target. Again, downtown wins, Target loses."
I'm sure this is a bit of a hyperbole by Dunning, but once again, he fails to grasp the central points. And dare I say, he fails to really do adequate research about what big box stores do in order to command their market share.

Target will as Bob perhaps sardonically suggests, offer worse customer service (probably poor based on my experiences in large stores), they will not know their customers' name, they probably will help the customer find the items they wish to purchase, but they probably won't be able to help them make a decision about these items or possess any kind of knowledge.

However, there is one advantage that Target has over small businesses--and it is in the end decisive--the ability to sell a large quantity of products for low prices.

There has been considerable research done on the effects and tactics of big box retailers such as Target. And there is a pattern.

First, they come in with very low prices. Not only can they buy in bulk which reduces the per-unit-cost of each product. But more importantly, they can afford to turn a lower per-unit-profit on each item in the interim. They do this to undercut local competitors who cannot take a temporary hit and cannot compete with the lower prices.

Okay, this is a good thing you say. Bob is high-fiving Jay Ziegler as he reads this. Like anything, there is a catch. Research suggests that big boxes offer very low prices initially, but then as they gain market share, those prices then begin to go up. This can't be, Bob exclaims. Moreover, some of those lower prices are just on certain, highly identifiable items, known as "signposts" that most consumers know the price of. However, those items may account for only five percent of the items in the store.

There have been arguments disputing the degree to which Target will actually take away business from people who shop at downtown stores who do sell similar merchandise. It is noteworthy that most of those stores signed the letter to the Davis Enterprise opposing Measure K. These are not the normal "CAVE"-dwellers as Dunning likes to call many progressives. It may be paranoia and it may be uncertainty. Or perhaps, the retailers themselves may actually suspect that they will lose money as the result of Target entering fully into the Davis market.

We just don't know, it's not like this has ever happened in other communities and we can judge it on the basis of history. Oh wait. It has and we can. And oh yeah, downtown and local businesses lose.

Again we must ask key questions that our leader has not: how much loss of revenue can a small business sustain? If they lose only 10% of their revenue would that wipe them out? What if they lose more?

A reasonable assessment of the situation suggests that even a small loss in profits may make downtown businesses not profitable enough for the owners to remain in business.

The combination of loss of sales based on direct competition and the lose of sales based on loss of walk-in business could put a number of our downtown businesses at serious risk.

Once Target enters the city of Davis, it will become powerful--very powerful as it takes up larger and larger percentages of the tax revenue that the city relies on.

The recent events of Fairfield indicate that once a business comes into town, they hold a huge upperhand. In Fairfield, as we reported yesterday, the City Council passed an ordinance in August to limit the size of retail stores. Wal-Mart made the announcement that they were closing their business at one location threatening the city with around a $400,000 per year loss of tax revenue. Wal-Mart then asked the city to approve a much larger Wal-Mart at a new location. The council facing the loss of a substantial tax base, ended up approving it.

The suggestion all along from the Davis City Council is that we as a communtiy are in control. What the city of Fairfield example shows is that we are not in control. The mega-corporation once established wields the influence of (nearly) half a million dollar in tax revenue. So Target can build their store at the Second Street Crossing and then decide that they need a larger location. A future city council has to hear the request and what happens if Target says, we're leaving and closing the location and we'll either move to another location where we can build a superstore or you can lose your tax base. What does the new city council do then? What do you think?

Tell us Souza and Saylor, who is in control? Because I know one thing with great certainty, it is not us and once Target is built, it will not be you.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Changes in the Davis Internal Affairs Department

Davis Police Internal Affairs Department Sgt. Gina Anderson has apparently left the Davis Police Department for another position in the city of Citrus Heights. Anderson is one of the central figures in Buzayan incident. She is caught on tape threatening Halema that if she did not confess, her mother would go to jail. This is a violation of the law and department policy. While it might seem that this is good news for those of us hoping to clean up the department. The replacement for Sgt. Gina Anderson, is Lt. Dorothy Pearson.

In June, it was reported that then Davis Police Chief Jim Hyde used public resources to launch a campaign against the Davis Human Relations Commission and specifically its chairperson, Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald.

A public records request reveals that Hyde enlisted Lt. Dorothy Pearson to recruit supporters for police department who would attack the HRC and its chairperson.

In early January in an e-mail exchange between Hyde and Lt. Dorothy Pearson:

Chief Jim Hyde: "FYI, calling in my cards. Are any of the military supporters willing to speak at public comment time … on the 17th at city council in support of the police department? HRC is pushing for there (sic) own police review commission."

Lt. Dorothy Pearson: "I am already circling the wagons! I am trying to get as many people as possible to attend and possibly speak."

On Jan. 12, Lt. Dorothy Pearson thanks James Hechtl. "The Chief called me last night after the meeting. He was singing the Military Family's praises. … I can't thank you enough for your help. I also sent Bob Glynn a thank you e-mail and told him that you would keep the group posted on upcoming strategies."

Hechtl responds, "What kind of availability do you and the Chief have this afternoon (Thur). I want to meet with both of you with (sic) and discuss some strategy."

Hechtl and Glynn proceed to write numerous letters attacking Escamilla Greenwald.

James Hechtl writes, "Ms. Greenwald and Ms. Garcia apply their racist views to every possible issue that confronts them. They look at the world through their prism of hate. ... The mere fact that they support numerous frivolous and hate-based lawsuits against the city should be enough to invite them and the rest of the Human Relations Commission to practice their trade in a more appropriate city. I recommend Johannesburg, South Africa."

(Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia is a Davis resident, parent, pediatrician and president of BECA (a Davis civil rights group) who worked with the commission on researching and drafting a report on racial profiling and recommending a proposed civilian police oversight review commission. )

Bob Glynn writes on May 5, "Davis must rid itself of this antiquated, racist commission and its bully chairperson, Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald."

What particularly catches my eye however is a letter to the editor from James Pearson dated February 22, 2006, who is the husband of Dorothy Pearson.

It is revealing because it gives us insight into their views about citizen complaints about the police department.
"I have yet to read an account of police misconduct that didn't fall into one of these categories: 1) uncorroborated anecdote, 2) a self-interested attack by a plaintiff suing Davis or 3) Aacalculated (sic) step by a would-be politician (who says she is not running for office)."
Let us put this into context. Dorothy Pearson is now in charge of investigating complaints against the Davis police officers. Her husband in February expresses an extremely negative view of those who complain about the police. The last statement is a thinly veiled attack against Escamilla Greenwald despite the fact that she has never run for political office.

It is extremely disturbing that the husband of the officer in charge of internal affairs would express such a view. It seems highly unlikely that this letter went out without his wife's tacit approval.

It seems to me that the officer in charge of such an investigative unit should have at least the pretense of impartiality.

A description of the ombudsman puts the primary investigative power into the hands of the internal affairs department:
"We must be clear that the police ombudsman provides a complementary level of oversight to police actions; the position does not replace them. The police ombudsman is not meant to circumvent the Police Department. The position does not normally do investigations in lieu of the police doing them."
In this case, the person doing the investigations seems to have a rather low opinion of the motivations of those who make complaints against the department.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting